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USA: Organic leaders to receive OTA’s highest honor

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) has selected Michael Funk of United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI) and Mark Lipson of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to receive its prestigious Organic Leadership Awards for 2011. “Both Michael Funk and Mark Lipson have had a long commitment to the organic movement. Michael has been instrumental in the growth and advancement of the natural and organic industry for over 30 years, while Mark has demonstrated personal commitment, leadership and vision with regard to advancing organic farming since the early 1980s,” said Christine Bushway, OTA’s Executive Director and CEO. Funk, UNFI’s Chairman of the Board, will receive the OTA Organic Leadership Award in the “Growing Organic Industry” category, while Lipson, Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor in USDA’s Office of the Secretary and Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, will receive the award in the “Growing Organic Agriculture” category.

A pioneer in the industry, Michal Funk became involved in the mid-1970s when consumer interest in natural foods began to blossom, OTA reports. His career began in the Sacramento Valley with a grassroots organic food business focused on helping the planet and promoting farmers’ use of fewer pesticides. Under his guidance and leadership, UNFI and its subsidiaries have grown into an estimated US$ 4.5 billion organization that employ over 6,500 associates, and distribute approximately 60,000 products to over 23,000 customer locations, while paying close attention to the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit. He actively supports the organic farming industry with grants, lobbying and outreach, and also is an involved member and supporter of OTA.


Since 1983, Mark Lipson has been a member of the Molino Creek Farming Collective in California, and at one time or another, has performed all the various roles of farm operations and management. In the mid-1980s he established the statewide office of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). While there, he led the development of many of the foundational aspects of organic certification systems. He also played a key role in the passage and implementation of the California Organic Foods Act of 1990 and the national Organic Foods Production Act. He joined the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) in1995, and served as Policy Program Director and Senior Policy Analyst until 2010. There, he was a nationally recognized leader in the development of federal policy initiatives for organic agriculture. In 1997 he authored the study “Searching for the O-Word,” which documented the lack of USDA research support for organic farming systems. This work led to OFRF’s creation of the Scientific Congress for Organic Agricultural Research, a national network for producers and scientists pursing the science of organic production and markets.Lipson joined USDA in June 2010 as Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Policy Advisor.

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